Conference Agenda

9E: Faith, Relief and Medical Education in the Low Countries
Friday, 10/Sept/2021:
9:00am - 10:15am

Session Chair: Dr. Joris Vandendriessche, KU Leuven


Faith, religion and public health in The Netherlands; short story of a successful merger*

Huurman, Jan

Huurman Consult, Netherlands, The

The rise of public health interventions has traditionally been located in the 19th century, as by-product of the consolidation of nation states. In most countries public health was organized in public organisations, on a municipal or a nationwide level. The Netherlands does not fit into this pattern. Private initiatives (‘particulier initiatief’) were dominant in building Dutch public health. The struggle against the great killers around 1900 (tuberculosis and infant mortality) was primarily the task of so-called ‘Kruiswerk’ (Cross-work)’ and TBC-societies, both private organisations.

Initially, during the first 40 years after the founding of the first ‘Kruisvereniging’ in 1875, this type of organisations was neutral, not connected to any religious or political organisation. As the movement spread over The Netherlands, developing from Noord-Holland to the southern provinces, it met resistance. Catholic bishops and politicians became afraid that the religious neutral ‘Kruisverenigingen’, with merely rational conceptions of public and personal hygiene, would undermine the catholic moral of their herd. Thus, in Limburg the catholic elite appropriated the ‘Groene Kruis’ (Green Cross) - neutral in the rest of The Netherlands - from the beginning. In Noord-Brabant the bishops choose for another path. As the ‘Groene Kruis’ in this province did succeed in building a neutral organisation, the bishops stimulated catholic priests, catholic medical doctors and other members of the catholic elite to found catholic ‘Wit-Gele Kruisverenigingen’.

In my presentation I will show how catholic faith and religion merged with modern rational concepts of hygiene and preventive medicine, and how successful this marriage was.

Medicine contra religion. Or: how Franz Joseph Harbaur forces the Sint-Elisabeth Gasthuis to cooperate with the University of Leuven (1817-1819).

Bakker, Catharina Th.

Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Netherlands, The

It's 1817. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands is in its infancy. Of the many things that need to be arranged, university education is one. Medicine is a keystone. To everyone's surprise, Dr. Franz Joseph Harbaur, court physician of King William I, becomes rector magnificus of the newly (re)founded University of Leuven, with the explicit task of invigorating medical education. In order to do so, good clinical training is required; i.e. bedside teaching. The Sint-Elisabeth Gasthuis, which is run by Augustinian Sisters and headed by a board of laymen, is the only candidate to be set up for this purpose. Harbaur, himself a moderate Catholic, has strong ideas about what such a hospital should look like. These ideas however do not match with the existing religious practices. It is all about the settlement and the organization of care. In an increasingly heated exchange of letters between Harbaur and the administration, two worlds collide: medicine versus religion. But it's not just that: it's also the clash of the old and the new world (before the French Revolution and beyond). It’s my aim to show this change using the letters as main source. In the end, it’s Harbaur who wins the case. At the start of the clinical education in the Sint-Elisabeth Gasthuis he addresses his students: show respect for the sisters!

The Friends' War Victims' Relief Committee: medical work in the Marne during the First World War

Palfreeman, Linda

Linda Palfreeman, University CEU Cardenal Herrera, Spain

The outbreak of war in Europe, in 1914 presented a serious moral dilemma for members of the Religious Society of Friends (Friends or Quakers). As the tragedy unfolded, many Friends, prevented by their religious principles from taking up arms, sought means of alleviating the appalling scale of anguish and misery being suffered by civilian victims of the war.

Doctor Hilda Clark knew that the existing medical services would be focused on attending the overwhelming needs of the military to the inevitable detriment of non-combatant citizens. Together with prominent Quaker, T. Edmund Harvey MP, Clark set about rallying the support of Friends and sympathisers willing to go out to France and Belgium to administer aid. The small committee created to organise the endeavour would be known as the Friends’ War Victims Relief Committee (FWVRC), the same as that used by the renowned organisation that had administered relief in the Franco-Prussian War. The work carried out would fall into four main classes: general relief work; the building of prefabricated housing and repair of ruined homes; agricultural work and medical work. It is the latter category that forms the focus of this paper.

The FWVRC founded a number of vital medical facilities and convalescent homes, and extensive district nursing was carried out. Its' first, most celebrated and most enduring venture, however, was the maternity hospital at Châlons-sur-Marne. Its success, claimed matron, Edith Pye, was due to the religious spirit underlying its work and the essential moral guidance administered to the mothers.